Manga Review: Junji Ito’s ‘Dissolving Classroom’


Jake Lankford

Every scene of body horror is used to maximum effect in Junji Ito’s "Dissolving Classroom."

Jake Lankford, Staff Writer

What does an apology mean to you? Acceptance? Forgiveness? Your entire body melting on the spot? That is the premise of Junji Ito’s 2015 body horror manga “Dissolving Classroom.”

Manga is a style of Japanese comic books and graphic novels. “Dissolving Classroom” is structured as a series of interrelated short manga stories about Yuuma and Chizumi Azawa as they carve a path of destruction, chaos and death wherever they go thanks to Yuuma’s sinister ability to melt a living human by simply apologizing to them on the spot.

All of the stories in “Dissolving Classroom” revolve around this ability and the pain and death it causes in the process, with characters being placed on the backburner during the entire spectacle, and Chizumi and Yuuma being placed front and center in all of the stories. Any characters in the stories are nothing more than targets for Yuuma and Chizumi, yet strangely enough, this works in ratcheting up the scares. With characters placed on the backburner, Ito allows his horrifying events and creatures to take center stage and frighten you even more than just seeing it through a protagonist’s eyes.

My main point of praise, however, is directed at Ito’s signature art style that is able to convey grotesque, terrifying and transfixing body horror. Every pen stroke, every line and every scene of body horror are used to their maximum effect in Ito’s master hands. Another thing worth mentioning is Ito’s use of character designs to further induce discomfort. Yuuma’s innocent appearance, for instance, adds to the horror that is his body-melting ability. Chizumi’s more demonic design, while it is a little bit cliche to design a creepy child like this, still makes her an incredibly creepy character on the page. These and other character designs help to create a unique and terrifying atmosphere that is near impossible to shake off once you have turned the very last page.

However, “Dissolving Classroom” isn’t a perfect story. Though the style of placing the horrors on full display does ensure effective scares, it unfortunately leaves behind characterization. Though Yuuma is developed somewhat in “Dissolving Classroom,” other characters are nothing more than target practice for him and Chizumi.

“Dissolving Classroom” also doesn’t have much going for it in plot, but that can be forgiven since it is a short story collection. Still, it could have benefitted from an actual plot. The connections, though incredibly clever, are still slightly obscure and one would need to reread in order to grasp them all, but other than those problems, “Dissolving Classroom” is quite the gem to read in one sitting.

In short, “Dissolving Classroom” will make you incredibly uncomfortable. You will feel pure unease as you look at the horrifying imagery, you will feel incredibly afraid to turn the page, and yet, you will want to come face to face with the horrifying results of Yuuma and Chizumi’s carnage.

Art style: 10/10
Characters: 5/10
Plot: 7/10